Thursday, 26 April 2012

Almond Meal Bread

I found this bread (which is originally from Elana's Pantry) in last week's goop newsletter where Frank Lipman wrote about healthier breakfast ideas. What he wrote about really spoke to me because I'm one of those wimps with a gazillion food sensitivities. Normally I simply ignore them because even though I know I would feel better if I left everything out I shouldn't eat, I tend to become a very grumpy person because it basically means I can't eat out and nobody wants to eat the food I cook (if I'm perfectly honest, after a week I normally don't want to eat it either). And, you know how when you're not feeling 100% for ages you kinda forget how awesome it is when you have lots of energy? So normally I just don't bother.
Anyhow, when I saw the recipes he suggested, I decided to at least give them a try - here he was promising me food I can actually eat without feeling crap that would even taste good.

And let me tell you, after trying this gluten free bread recipe I am sold. I'm currently eating my way through batch number 2 and have made another one for lunch with my lab.
So what should you know about this bread?

It's amazing, it tastes like actual bread (not like the weird gluten-free stuff that doesn't go off for months and tastes funky even when it's super 'fresh'), and goes incredibly well with some smoked salmon and avocado (Lipman's suggestion) but when you toast it and add some nut butter, it tastes more like a slice of cake. It also goes really well with some strawberries and banana making (drizzled with agave syrup) a perfect pancake replacement for Sunday brunch. It works with soup, on its own, with ice cream, and toasted, buttered and cut into slices it makes perfect soldiers for your soft boiled eggs.
Should I go on?

As for the recipe, I used fewer eggs and more ground flaxseed than the original recipe (since you can use ground flaxseed as an egg-replacement I decided that 5 eggs per batch was scary and 4 would have to do).
If you are still unsure about whether you should make this bread, don't think of it as something gluten-free, but bake it in muffin cases and enjoy a lovely afternoon treat with a cup of tea.
Oh, and since my scales are broken I'm working with cup measures at the moment (normally I use the cup measures and then weigh everything as I go along)...sorry about that!

Almond Meal Bread
1 1/2 cups Ground Blanched Almonds
1/2 cup Ground Flaxseed
2 tbsp Coconut Flour
1/4-1/2 tsp Salt (if you like your bread to taste like bread use more, if you're watching your sodium intake, use less)
1 1/2 tsp Bicarb
4 Eggs
1/4 cup Coconut Oil
1/2 tbsp Agave Syrup or Honey
1 tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar

Preheat your oven to 175 ˚C.
Combine the ground almonds, flaxseed, coconut flour, salt and bicarb. If you have one of those nifty hand-blenders whizz the remaining ingredients together, then add the dry ingredients and keep whizzing until everything is combined. If you have one of those food processors with blades, combine the dry ingredients in the food processor, then add the wet ingredients and pulse until everything is combined.
If you feel like the batter/dough is way too dry you might want to add a few tablespoons of soda water (my first batch felt like it needed some, the second batch was just fine without).
If you have a small loaf-pan, line it and pour the batter in. If you, like me, only have a large loaf-pan either double the recipe or use muffin tins - one recipe makes about 10 muffin-sized rolls.
Bake for 40/50/20 minutes (small loaf/large loaf/muffin tins) but at least until the top has some colour.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes before you remove things from the pan(s) before you wait a bit longer while the bread cools completely (I find watching some mind-less TV stops me from eating half the loaf while it cools down).

Try some of the toppings I talked about above and let me know if you find a combination the bread works incredibly well with!

Friday, 20 April 2012


I spent the week in Scotland and I am quite scared to describe the feelings I had when I sat on the bus to St Andrews.
Because what it felt like was coming home.
You know the calm and somewhat warm and fuzzy feeling you get when you come home to wherever you call home? Well it was just like that.
I was really surprised by that because I pretty much spent the last 7 years complaining about the cold and the food and the rain and the lack of decent public transport and the weird pick-up-lines guys use :)
Yet, here I was sitting on a smelly bus with a lady who probably should have washed her hair about 5 days ago and all I could think about was how I had missed the place.
Since I am now feeling super nostalgic I have decided to share a few photos with you (old and new...some are from when I first visited St Andrews 8 years ago while trying to work out where and what to study).
I hope you have a fabulous weekend!

Where do you feel at home?

Friday, 6 April 2012

Cold Rise Hot Cross Buns

When Alex from East Coast Kitchens posted about Hot Cross Scones the other day I was reminded of how there are quite a few traditions that I have come to love about the UK that you don't get on the Continent, hot cross buns are one of them, Pimm's and lemonade is another one :), Christmas Pudding definitely isn't.

Since it's Good Friday I thought we could make some hot cross buns together.
The problem I have these days, though, is that I cook too much for one person (it doesn't matter how much I loved the lasagne I made on Saturday, by the time I was staring at it for the third time for dinner on Monday I was contemplating going vegan just so I wouldn't have to eat lasagne again...).

So...what's a girl to do if she wants to bake hot cross buns but doesn't want to eat stale leftovers for the next week? I came up with two ideas  a) rather than make a full 12 or 16 bun batch I only made 8 (keep that in mind if you're planning on feeding your entire extended family) and b) I decided to take them to work yesterday and exploit everyone there as recipe testers.

That left me with a few other problems - how do you make fresh hot cross buns in the morning and still make it to work at a decent time? That one is actually not that much of a problem, you just have to do some of the work the night before. Yeast works best around 27 degrees and when it gets either too hot or too cold it slows down and even goes into hibernation if things get too extreme. You could think of yeast as a crocodile on a nature show. If it's cold, it moves really slow. But if it's nice and toasty after lying in the sun all day it's super quick (not quite sure what the gazelle that gets eaten by the crocodile would be in our scenario...or whether a crocodile can get too hot, would it slow down again or would it become super fast like Road Runner?)

Also, I don't like how the raisins can dry out the buns, so I decided to soak them in some port - a suggestion I found in Andrew Whitley's Bread Matters. That said, if you don't like port or like your hot cross buns all dry then just leave out the soaking part.

Anyhow, let's finally get to the recipe, right? This version is based on Felicity Cloake's perfect hot cross buns after a previous attempt using the Peyton & Byrne version and sticking it into the fridge failed miserably - that recipe would have been called 'hot cross hockey pucks' but the current version is just plain lovely.

Hot Cross Buns
200g Spelt Flour
100g Rye Flour
120ml warm Milk
10g fresh Yeast (i.e. 1/4 pack), broken into small pieces (if it looks a bit old go for 15)
25g Sugar plus a tablespoon for later
1/2 tsp ground Cardamom
2 tsp ground Cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground Allspice
1/8 tsp ground Cloves
1/8 tsp ground Nutmeg
1/2 tsp fresh Ginger, grated
1/4 tsp Salt
50g Butter, diced
2 Eggs
100g Currants and/or Raisins (I ran out of currants so I topped things up with some raisins)
Some Port (enough to cover the currants)
Zest of 1/2 Orange
2 tbsp Flour

Combine the currants and port in a plastic container and refrigerate until needed.

In a bowl combine the flours, ground spices, sugar, and ginger. Make a well in the middle of the flour stir the yeast and warm milk until you have a more-or-less smooth paste. Temperature-wise you want the milk to feel warm but not excessively so - go for about the same temperature you'd go for when running a warm (not scalding hot!) bath.

Clean up your kitchen while the yeast bubbles away for 15 minutes or so (if your kitchen looks like mine this is just the thing to do while waiting for those 15 minutes...otherwise...feel smug and read a book).

Add one of the eggs and the butter and mix everything together.

Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, you'll know it's ready when it starts feeling silky and becomes somewhat less sticky. If you're either stuck with a dry lump or a sticky mess after 10 minutes, add some more flour or water (but don't overdo it either way).

Put the dough back into the bowl and cover it with either a damp towel or some cling film.
Leave the dough sitting on the counter for an hour or so.

When you come back you have a few options - if you want to use the dough the same day, continue straight with the next step.

If you like getting up early in the morning, knock back the dough, then stick the bowl with the dough  into the fridge and go to bed.

If you want to bake the buns tomorrow morning but you want to sleep in, continue with the next few steps and stick everything into the fridge after forming the buns.

Whatever you have decided to do, once you are ready to continue (whether that is right after reading the last few lines or while sipping your early-morning coffee), allow the dough to rise until it has doubled in size (the cold dough will have a head-start but will take some time to warm up).

Add the currants (without the port - that will make a nice drizzle for yoghurt) and the orange zest and knead everything together until the currants are evenly distributed within the dough.

Divide the dough into 8 pieces and lay them out on a lined baking sheet and score a cross into the top of each of them.
Cover everything with cling film.

If you decided to go for option number 3, shift everything around in your fridge so you can fit the baking sheet in there with all the other stuff and go to bed now :),
otherwise pour yourself another cup of coffee and watch the buns puff up and double in size (I always find that hard to judge so I tend to poke the dough but then what I want them to feel like is quite hard to put in words...the closes thing I can think of is the resistance you get from a memory foam mattress - I know, super descriptive, but give them about 15-30 minutes depending on the temperature of your kitchen).

Preheat your oven to 200˚C.

If you decided to stick the buns into the fridge overnight, good morning :) take them out now and drink some coffee while the dough comes up to room-temperature.

Whisk up the second egg with some milk and brush the buns with the egg-wash.
Now mix the two tablespoons of flour with some water until you have a thick paste.
Pipe or drizzle the paste onto the buns forming a cross using either a piping bag or a teaspoon - I used a teaspoon and my paste was too thin - the next time I'll be using the piping bag that is currently sitting in my parents' car somewhere between Stuttgart and Berlin (I get my final load of things today :) ok, and it's going to be super nice to spend Easter with my family in my new apartment, but all I can think about right now is how I'll get a whole load of bowls and said piping bag and teapots and milk jugs and whatnot I can't wait to see again).

Now, where was I - you should now have a pasty white cross on each of the buns.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until the buns are a fairly dark golden brown.

Just before the buns are ready to come out of the oven, combine the extra teaspoon of sugar with some water in a saucepan and heat until the sugar has dissolved in the water.

When the buns are ready, take them out of the oven and immediately brush them with the syrup you just made.

Transfer the buns onto a wire rack and let them cool slightly before you smother them in butter and realise that you probably shouldn't have yet another cup of coffee :)

I hope you have a lovely Easter weekend!
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